Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Links for 7/20/10

Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications…

cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances.
Jason Fertig
Aside from some technical degrees, college does not train anyone for a job…

Higher education is designed to develop the mind, which in turn allows the graduate to bring that developed mind to the workforce. It does not, nor should it allow one to bypass the lower rungs of the corporate ladder…
David Glenn
Since 2005 the federal government has given states more than $400-million to build long¬itudinal education databases. Before long, nearly every state should have the capacity to do the kinds of analysis that Louisiana has done, tracing schoolchildren's academic performance back to their teachers' teachers.

To many observers, these databases are a long-overdue step toward a real understanding of the quality of higher education. "This kind of information can be extremely powerful," says Grover J. Whitehurst, a former official of the U.S. Education Department who directs the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy. "For the first time, you're getting data on whether training is actually affecting teachers in the way that you would expect it would."

But other people say poorly designed analyses might do more harm than good. The standardized tests that underlie these reports are themselves controversial, of course. Beyond that, some education deans worry that states will crunch the numbers in crude ways that misidentify teachers' effects on their students…
Jay Mathews
40 percent of her 115 students thought that their high schools had not prepared them for college-level writing. Only 23 percent thought they had those writing skills.

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